by Jan Wellik, Founder/Director
Welcome to Eco Expressions, where youth explore the natural world
and discover the spirit within…
Eco Expressions has a long history, founded back in 2004 in San Diego, Calif.
The programs and opportunities continue to evolve in its Midwest home in La Crosse, Wisconsin today.
Between the confining walls of the counseling room, the youth at the substance abuse recovery center were bored. One of the teenage boys was self-mutilating - poking his forearm with anything he could get his hands on – paint chips, metal tacks and pencils. Even from a volunteer case manager’s point of view, it was obvious these teens needed a challenge. I knew this environment was not the place to foster change.
So I took them birdwatching at a local wildlife sanctuary. They dropped their guards immediately. They listened to the naturalist, as she led them to see the rattlesnake up-close in his natural habitat. The urban teenagers lifted their heads out from behind their inner walls, and were awed by nature. They grew calm and patient, just watching birds and making new discoveries about a world they seldom explored. Some had never used binoculars before.
This moment was a catalyst for me – a seed was planted. I was witness to a powerful experience of young people, angry and aching from life’s pitfalls, transform into loving people. Within a year Eco Expressions was alive in Southern California, with the financial help of the Wild Gift organization. In 2004, I was one of five national recipients to receive an environmental leadership award from the Wild Gift, based in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Find out more about Wild Gift Fellowship at: https://fellows.wildgift.org/users/jan-wellik